“we are a three-generation farm that has transitioned from traditional farming practices to a regenerative method of production. Our production system revolves around the main fundamentals of healthy soil, which are: minimal disturbance, keeping the soil covered, increase diversity and have zero fungicide use.”
Name: Dan Fox
Business and/or property name: Five Oaks
Business Partners: My wife Rachel and my parents and grandparents
Farm Size: 2100 ha effective cropping area
Farm locality/region: Marrar, southern NSW
Topography: gentle rolling granite hills with loam soil
Rainfall: average 500mm
Primary Outputs: wheat, barley, faba beans, vetch, lentils, trade lambs
Farming System: “strip and disc” production system with the aim to grow more with less while building soil organic carbon.
Three generations of Fox Family Farming
To farm regeneratively we seed our crops with a single disc seeder and harvest our crops with a stripper front on our harvester.
The disc seeder is used to minimise soil disturbance while seeding crops. This minimises the destruction to soil structure that tillage does, and allows water to infiltrate freely rather than to run off, as well as to minimise the damage to our soil biology. The disc seeder also enables us to sow through stubble residues, which protects the soil from wind and water erosion, as well as reducing soil temperatures through summer that would harm our soil biology.
Seeding through long straw using a disc seeder
We harvest our cereal crops with a Shelbourne stripper header on the front of our harvester. This header only takes the grain from the head of our crops and leaves the residue standing in the paddock. This is different to a conventional front where a knife cuts the straw and it is taken into the harvester for processing. By only taking the grain from the plant, it not only speeds up the harvesting operation and reduces fuel use, but also provides greater protection of the soil from wind and water erosion from the longer straw left standing. The longer straw also makes the sowing operation easier, so the disc seeder and stripper front work hand in hand.
Lentils growing with straw completely covering soil surface
Other benefits to covering the soil with crop residue is the moisture retention and herbicide reduction it brings. Mum always said that the mulch on the home garden was there for two reasons; to keep the moisture in and to keep the weeds out. Our garden out in the paddock is no different; we want to have permanent ground cover on our paddocks. We farm on one of the driest continents in the world, so we must make use of every drop of rain we receive and minimising the amount of water we lose through evaporation helps us do this.
Our fertiliser strategy had also changed in the last few years to reduce our impact on our soils and soil biology. We have transitioned from using a large amount of artificial fertilisers like urea and MAP to using much more natural sources such as fermented biofertilisers and manures. We also apply most of our in crop fertilisers as a foliar fertiliser application rather than to the soil to minimise the impact they have on our soils and the biology. We are also planting companion species with our crops to increase our diversity and reduce our fertiliser requirements by using these plants to fix nitrogen from the air that they can then share with our cash crops.
David Fox inspecting a great crop of wheat grown with very little rainfall using the strip and disc system
Stubble management for weeds and yield
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